NICOLA Sturgeon has been accused of "rank hypocrisy" after launching a stinging attack on cuts to renewable energy subsidies.

The First Minister claimed Scotland's green power potential was "at risk of being switched off" by UK Government policies which she condemned as "an absolute, total disgrace".

Her comments, during First Minister's Questions, came a day after Finance Secretary John Swinney confirmed he was axing £10million of tax breaks for renewable firms in Scotland and were seized on by Conservative and Labour MSPs.

Murdo Fraser, the Scots Tories economy spokesman, accused her of "rank hypocrisy" and Sarah Boyack, Labour's environmental spokesman, said the First Minister had been "posturing" when she talked up Scotland's record on green energy during last month's Paris climate summit.

Mr Swinney signalled in his budget last month that rates relief for renewable energy would end later this year.

From April 1, only community-run schemes will qualify for the subsidy, known as the Renewable Energy Generation Relief Scheme, which offers green power companies rates rebates of up to 100 per cent.

Scottish Renewables, the industry body which represents green power producers, said the decision was "disappointing" and would make the country's renewable energy sector less economically viable.

Questioned at Holyrood about green energy, Ms Sturgeon criticised the UK Government's decision to scrap subsidies for onshore windfarms, delay contracts for offshore wind and ditch a £1billion fund for carbon capture and storage technology.

She told MSPs: "Scotland’s huge energy potential is at risk of being switched off by the Tories.

"That would be an absolute, total disgrace, and I urge them to think again on all those issues."

She avoided mention of the Scottish Government's move to scrap subsidies.

Mr Fraser said: "This exposes the rank hypocrisy in the SNP on support for renewable energy.

"They castigate the UK Government for taking steps to protect householders by reducing over-generous subsidies but at the same time they are quietly hitting renewables companies with a £10million additional rates bill."

Ms Boyack said: "This is staggering hypocrisy from the SNP Government.

"Last month Nicola Sturgeon was posturing in Paris on climate change but when it comes to putting her money where her mouth is she's clearly just full of hot air."

She added: "We know the SNP have not met their first four annual climate change targets, we know that performance will be worse because of their plans to slash air passenger duty and now the SNP plan to end tax relief for renewables companies.

"This is putting the industry into reverse gear and compounds the cuts made by the Tory Government."

Stephanie Clark, policy manager at Scottish Renewables, said: "Renewable energy schemes operate in a competitive environment and future growth here in Scotland is dependent on making sure we create the conditions for projects to compete with other forms of energy across the UK.

"The Scottish Government has a key role to play in achieving this through the wider regulatory framework, and more specifically through mechanism like business rates, so it was disappointing that the Scottish Government chose to take this action at a time when UK Government decisions have adversely affected the economics of the sector.

"Scottish Renewables made its objection to the removal of business rates relief for renewable energy developments clear prior to the announcement, and we will continue to work with the Scottish Government and our members on this issue."

Mr Swinney told Holyrood's economy committee on Tuesday the government expected to raise "about £10million" by scrapping green energy rates relief.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "In 2010 we took action to protect the renewable energy sector, a fledgling sector, which saw significant rates bill increases at the 2010 revaluation.

"Now that the sector has reached financial maturity, and given the challenging fiscal environment imposed by the UK Government, we are taking steps to target the relief to delivering a benefit to schemes incorporating community ownership."

Scottish Renewables warned recently the government was set to miss its target of generating 100 per cent of Scotland's electricity needs from renewable energy by the end of the decade.

This week it called for a more ambitious longer term target to generate the equivalent of half of all Scotland's power needs, including heating and transport, from renewables by 2030.